Google arrives in Lincolnshire. So what is Street View?
On the 18th March 2009 Google launched its controversial Street View mapping service in the UK, with web and mobile phone users able to see 360-degree views of 25 cities from Southampton to Aberdeen. Google has spent almost a year so far collecting images, with a fleet of specially modified Vauxhall/Opel Astras crawling along over 22,000 miles of British roads. Now that the majority of major cities have all been added we're pleased to see that Lincolnshire is now in line for the same level of mapping detail. The results of this are expected to be seen online in the coming weeks. The 360 degree views of the major cities taken over a year ago are quickly looking very dated indeed. Some images however now resemble a bygone era before the recession took hold of the British High Streets, showing many a bustling town centre with the now long gone Woolworth's still open for business. As well as the challenges of taking millions of individual pictures along Britain's roads, Google Street View has also suffered a lot of criticism from privacy campaigners since it launched in the US over two years ago. An American couple even went as far as to try to sue Google over an invasion of privacy, although they subsequently lost their case. To try to meet concerns about privacy, Google Street View only contains imagery that is already visible from public roads and features technology that automatically blurs both faces and car number plates. Google's geospatial technologist Ed Parsons stated recently, "We have got 99.9% of it right, but sometimes it does not work completely." As a result every photo contains a "Report a concern" link, so anyone who believes they can be identified in a photo, or who wants their property removed from a picture can single out particular areas to be blanked out. When Google updates its photos, these blank spaces will remain blanked out. As a result of the changes, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) which had been investigating complaints about Google's Street View, last year gave the all clear for the service to launch in the UK. The ICO stated "Although it is possible that in certain limited circumstances an image may allow identification of an individual, it is clear that Google is keen to capture images of streets and not individuals". Google Street View hasn't been to everyone's tastes however when, on the 3rd April 2009, it was reported in the press that residents of the village of Broughton in Buckinghamshire formed a human barrier to stop one of the Google cars from photographing the village. Villagers were expressing their fears that it was "invading [the villagers'] privacy" and "facilitating crime". On the whole though, Street View has been met with a great deal of positive reaction. TJS who use Google mapping for pinpointing clients' on their own 'Contact us' pages on their sites look forward to taking this a stage further and adding it to their shop front when the new images come through. Hidden within the Street View imagery in the UK will be well-known children's story book character "Wally" wearing his trademark red and white striped hat, jumper and walking stick. We don't know where Wally is, but we do hope to see the team waving, hidden from the immediate view of the street - lets see if we manage to evade having our faces blanked out or not. The cities covered so far by Street View in the UK are: London, Edinburgh, Leeds, Bradford, Cambridge, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Oxford, Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby, Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Swansea, York, Newcastle, Dundee, Southampton, Norwich and Scunthorpe.